Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Payne Todd to Thomas Jefferson, 14 September 1816

From John Payne Todd

Mont Pelier 14th Sepr 16.

my Dear Sir

I take the liberty of introducing1 to you, Mr Valaperta, an artist of considerable merit and reputation.

His object in visiting Monticello, should he be so fortunate as to find you at home, is to ask your permission to take your bust in clay, or your profile in Wax with a view to work it afterwards in ivory, to perform either, he says will be attended with little trouble to you, and the latter particularly may be done in two sittings, and those not long ones.

with the highest Consideration and respect yr very devoted St

John P. Todd

RC (MHi); at foot of text: “Th: Jefferson Esqre”; endorsed by TJ as a letter from “Todd Paine” received 16 Sept. 1816 and so recorded in SJL, which adds that it was delivered “by Vallaperta.”

Giuseppe Valaperta (d. 1817?), sculptor, was born in Milan and worked in Italy, in Spain, and in France at Napoleon’s imperial residence of Malmaison. Having been convinced to visit the United States by William Lee, the American consul at Bordeaux, he arrived in Washington in the autumn of 1815 armed with Lee’s letters of introduction. By early in February 1816 Valaperta had agreed to help refurbish the United States Capitol. He designed and executed the American eagle on the entablature frieze in the Hall of the House of Representatives. Valaperta also created wax bas-relief portraits of James Madison, James Monroe, TJ, and other notables. His likeness of TJ is reproduced elsewhere in this volume. A contemporary newspaper reported, however, that Valaperta’s “health and mind were much impaired” by his labors; that “After a short illness, he became completely deranged”; and that “He often repeated, that he had worked enough, and that it was time for him to rest.” On 4 Mar. 1817 Valaperta disappeared from his lodgings. He was presumed to have committed suicide, although his body was never found (Alexander J. Wall, “Joseph Valaperta, Sculptor,” New-York Historical Society Quarterly Bulletin 11 [1927]: 53–6; Groce and Wallace, Dictionary of Artists description begins George C. Groce and David H. Wallace, The New-York Historical Society’s Dictionary of Artists in America 1564–1860, 1957 description ends , 643; Latrobe, Papers description begins John C. Van Horne and others, eds., The Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 1984–88, 3 vols. description ends , 3:719, 726–7; Bush, Life Portraits description begins Alfred L. Bush, The Life Portraits of Thomas Jefferson, rev. ed., 1987 description ends , 68–70; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 4 Nov. 1815, 29 Nov. 1816, 10 Mar., 28 Apr. 1817).

1Manuscript: “intrducing.”

Index Entries

  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of introduction to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Portraits; G. Valaperta’s wax bas-relief search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); Visitors to; Valaperta, Giuseppe search
  • suicide; and G. Valaperta search
  • Todd, John Payne; introduces G. Valaperta to TJ search
  • Todd, John Payne; letters from search
  • Valaperta, Giuseppe; delivers letter search
  • Valaperta, Giuseppe; identified search
  • Valaperta, Giuseppe; introduced to TJ search
  • Valaperta, Giuseppe; visits Monticello search
  • Valaperta, Giuseppe; wax bas-relief portrait of TJ by search